Aligning marketing with institutional goals


One of the best ways to ensure that the marketing department is revered across campus is to boost enrollment. At the end of the day, that’s the goal, right? To increase enrollment for the institution? Which in turn increases revenue streams that could lead to providing more services, boosting funding for programs, and so on?

Unfortunately, marketing departments face struggle after struggle when developing strategies to market their institutions, never mind possible budget cuts due to decreased enrollment.

So what can be done to ensure that marketing efforts are efficient and fruitful? At Ashland Community and Technical College (ACTC) in Kentucky, this is achieved by strategically aligning marketing objectives with the institution’s strategic plan, consistently evaluating marketing tactics and providing return on investment reports to the college president and chief business affairs officer as evidence of success.

In the strategic plan

Community college marketers often wrestle with the fact that a lot of their colleagues may not truly know how the department impacts enrollment. Plus, developing marketing objectives is already a daunting task, with so many platforms and tactics available to marketers. Add in the fact that community college marketers get bogged down with one-off (and often last-minute) requests from other departments – flyers, postcards and, sometimes, taking the reins on events.

This article is part of a monthly series provided by the National Council for Marketing & Public Relations (NCMPR), an affiliated council of the American Association of Community Colleges.

Handling these extra requests while having to market the marketing department itself makes it difficult to focus efforts on the bigger picture: enrollment and branding. The best way to combat this is to sit down with the college strategic plan and work on implementing strategies that will drive institutional key performance measures (KPI).

ACTC cabinet members, in conjunction with leaders across the college, took a deep dive into the college’s mission and how to measure that mission’s fulfillment. One key element in living the mission is the college’s adoption of the 4DX Model. The 4DX Model is about executing ideas by focusing on the wildly important goals that may have fallen by the wayside due to juggling day-to-day tasks. Using this approach, marketing is proactive in reassessing its efforts in a way that better aligns with collegewide KPIs.

One key benefit of aligning marketing objectives with institutional goals is that it provides a window of opportunity to prioritize the time and effort team members put into certain areas of marketing. For instance, it gives a concrete way to say “no” or begin requiring more lead time for one-off requests. It also lets the marketing departments re-evaluate whether current strategies and tactics are effective drivers in meeting KPIs.

It helps marketing answer the question, “Does using those tactics provide true return on investment (ROI)?”

Evaluating marketing tactics

In 2020, the ACTC marketing department began evaluating marketing tactics and their respective ROI to the college. With constantly evolving technology and platforms available to marketers, plus tightening budgets, it is important to ensure that money is well spent.

The key to keeping marketing budgets level or requesting budget increases is to provide data that prove the money being spent on marketing is well-invested. To do this, a prioritization of tactics is required. Departments need to focus on lead-generating methods and supplement with brand awareness tactics. This allows marketers to provide ROI figures and gather useful information about potential students that in turn can be used to further optimize campaigns.

For example, in fiscal year 2022, ACTC invested roughly $30,000 in digital marketing, which generated leads to enrollment that resulted in $461,360.54 in tuition dollars from search engine marketing alone. That’s a 1,502.3% return on investment!

Marketing departments need to be proactive in tracking their methods and use prospect data to ensure campaigns both run as effectively as possible and provide the best return to the college. This is a key factor in building trust with college leadership and other departments, which goes a long way when it’s time to introduce new marketing initiatives.

About the Author

Taylor Alexander
Taylor Alexander is the director of marketing and public relations at Ashland Community and Technical College in Kentucky. She is also NCMPR’s District 2 assistant director and a 2021-22 graduate of NCMPR’s Leadership Institute.
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